ACRE Background Paper #2: Gegner, Law Enforcement, & Democracy

The barber has been aperating a segregated shop in the village since the 1930'x. Several years ago a Greene County jury found him guilty of racial discrimination and the Judge fined him $1. Since then, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission tried conciliation and was unsuccessful, held a hearing which found him guilty, and issued a cease and desist order. The barber appealed the order and the judge ruled it unconstitutional. The district appelate court reversed the lower court's decision and by a unanimous ruling revalidated the section of the state's public accomodations law that applied to barber shops.

Every day the barber does segregated business he is breaking the law, Vhen test cases are sent in, the police decline to be present to witness the open defiance and make an immediate arrest, He has not been required to put up any bail. The county prosecutor will not even accept affidavits charging violations of the anti­discrimination law,

The village has stated its anxiety and a policy derived therefrom about "weak" cases. (See Background Paper #l,) To date, they have not implemented a complementary desire and policy for "strong" cases, Although the Human Relations Commission has announced it supports and will sponsor such cases, they have not as yet done so.

This official inaction is as disturbing and much more serious than the barber's discrimination policy. Such inaction negates the law and bolsters segregation.

The issue involved is much greater than a simple haircut.

The point that he would not have many Negro customers and that the issues thus, lacks surface practicality does not mitigate the seriousness of his policy of discrimination nor the seriousness of his open defiance of the law and not being cited for it. Those who counsel the transcendant importance of a supreme court decision neglect the question that apparently such a decision can only be obtained by the village's acquiescence to habitual lawlessness. Discrimination because of race in a barber shop is just another expression of this country's invidious tradition of racism; and this tradition must be overcome in all its manifestations before America can ever be free and democracy a reality.